Deemed nouveau riche and shunned by elitist New York society, sisters Nan and Virginia St. George, along with their friends Lizzy Elmsworth and Conchita Closson (Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino), try their luck in London. The girls' New World spontaneity and impertinence constitute nothing less than a social invasion of Old World society and they soon find themselves courted by a coterie of fascinated admirers. But as the old and new worlds come to clash, something has to give.
As four young American women find their way through the labyrinthine social world of 1870s England, their fortunes rise--and sometimes, with brutal abruptness, fall. Based on Edith Wharton's unfinished novel, The Buccaneers, this lavish BBC production follows Nan and Virginia St. George (Carla Gugino, Spy Kids, and Alison Elliott, The Spitfire Grill), two American sisters who follow their friend Conchita Closson (Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite), a Brazilian bad girl who marries a dissolute British lord, to England in search of aristocratic husbands--partly due to the influence of their canny governess, Laura Testvalley (Cherie Lunghi, Excalibur). The Buccaneers has a good dose of the delicious satirical wit to be found in many BBC dramas, but tempered by the presence of the naive American girls, who find themselves trapped by the very things they thought they wanted. Though mocked by some critics for its heaving bosoms and towering hairdos, the five-part series stealthily paints a sometimes devastating portrait of women's lives. When Idina Hatton (Jenny Agutter, Logan's Run), the older lover of the aimless Lord Seadown (Mark Tandy, Shackleton), learns that Seadown is going to marry the young and lovely Virginia, it's a heartbreaking moment, yet one that isn't overdone. The Buccaneers is full of such gracefulness--Wharton observes the fickle turns of life in society with a judicious eye, empathizing with the pain but never losing sight of the hard realities of money and marriage. In a strong cast, Gugino particularly shines; with her round, rosy cheeks and expressive eyes, she makes a smart yet vulnerable heroine. --Bret Fetzer